Our campus convenience stores are loaded with “energy” products. We have energy bars, energy drinks, energy pills, and even energy gum and energy jellybeans, not to mention the traditional slew of coffees and sodas, claiming to do everything from simply keep us awake to turning us into virile, indefatigable machines. First of all, it makes me wonder, why are we so tired? And then, do we really need all of this?

I can tell a very distinct difference between an artificial, caffeinated state of buzzing alertness, and, say, waking up from a full night of sleep. I highly prefer the latter of the two, even though decent amounts of sleep can be very hard to get. I did, however, learn a very easy tip which has made me feel vastly more awake in the mornings and much more alert during the day: drink a glass of water before you go to sleep, and drink one right after you wake up.

The rationale is that every chemical reaction in your body depends on water, and your body naturally gets dehydrated when you’re asleep. Giving it more water before you go to sleep helps offset that fatigue that comes from being so dehydrated, and helps flush out the waste products of all those reactions. I noticed after a couple of days that not only was it much easier to get out of bed in the mornings, my skin was a lot clearer and my jeans weren’t as tight.

I think we get so used to drinking coffees, sodas, juices, and mystery slush that we forget just how satisfying and essential a glass of water can be. It used to be that I would reach for the Aleve whenever I got a headache; now, if I drink some water first, nine times out of ten it goes away, no pills required. I also notice that when I sip water more often throughout the day and with meals, I feel much less hungry.

And you really don’t have to shell out money for bottled water to stay hydrated during the day. Unless you’re on a mission trip or stuck in an airport, I’d recommend avoiding it altogether. After all, in the US we have the cleanest tap water of any country in the world, and there’s no way to guarantee that what you’re paying for in bottles is any cleaner than what you could run from the sink at home. If your tap water has a strong metallic or sulfuric flavor, most home filters will get rid of it, plus any trace pollutants. I keep a Brita pitcher on my desk, which does wonders for my building’s ancient pipes. Keeping your own water bottle saves plastic and fuel, too. It’s very costly to produce plastic and to ship heavy, bottled liquids. You can get a nice metal water bottle just about anywhere, and I believe Nalgene makes a plastic bottle that doesn’t leak potentially harmful chemicals like many others do. In the wintertime, try keeping a thermos of hot tea with you; it’ll keep you hydrated and warm you up.

Ok, I have to get on my soapbox again for a minute: don’t drink Vitamin Water. Just don’t even waste your money. I don’t care if the packaging and the colors look pretty in the cooler and that it tastes good. It’s an appealing product. But seriously, just go drink some flat Coke. It has just as much sugar in it. If you want vitamins, have a piece of fruit or some vegetables, and least get them from a real food. If you’re really a soda lover, the next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some 100% fruit juice and mix it with seltzer: you get the flavor of the juice minus the acid, the chemicals, the dyes, and the processed sugars from a typical soda.

It’s funny; we say water doesn’t have a taste, but when you’re thirsty, it tastes better than anything else in the world, doesn’t it?